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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.01097

Soil warming accelerates biogeochemical silica cycling in a temperate forest

 Jonathan Gewirtzman1, 2, 3*, Jianwu Tang1, Jerry M. Melillo1,  William J. Werner1, Andrew C. Kurtz4,  Robinson W. Fulweiler5 and  Joanna C. Carey1, 4, 6
  • 1The Ecosystems Center, Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), United States
  • 2Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University, United States
  • 3Department of Biology, Boston University, United States
  • 4Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, United States
  • 5Department of Biology & Department of Earth and Environment, Boston University, United States
  • 6Division of Math and Science, Babson College, United States

Biological cycling of silica plays an important role in terrestrial primary production. Soil warming stemming from climate change can alter the cycling of elements, such as carbon and nitrogen, in forested ecosystems. However, the effects of soil warming on the biogeochemical cycle of silica in forested ecosystems remains unexplored. Here we examine long-term forest silica cycling under ambient and warmed conditions over a 15-year period of experimental soil warming at Harvard Forest (Petersham, MA). Specifically, we measured silica concentrations in organic and mineral soils, and in the foliage and litter of two dominant species (Acer rubrum and Quercus rubra), in a large (30 x 30 m) heated plot and an adjacent control plot (30 x 30 m). In 2016, we also examined effects of heating on dissolved silica in the soil solution, and conducted a litter decomposition experiment using four tree species (Acer rubrum, Quercus rubra, Betula lenta, Tsuga canadensis) to examine effects of warming on the release of biogenic silica (BSi) from plants to soils. We find that tree foliage maintained constant silica concentrations in the control and warmed plots, which, coupled with productivity enhancements under warming, led to an increase in total plant silica uptake. We also find that warming drove an acceleration in the release of silica from decaying litter in three of the four species we examined, and a substantial increase in the silica dissolved in soil solution. However, we observe no changes in soil BSi stocks with warming. Together, our data indicates that warming increases the magnitude of silica uptake by vegetation and accelerates the internal cycling of silica in in temperate forests, with possible and yet unresolved effects on the delivery of silica from terrestrial to marine systems.

Keywords: silica, Climate Change, Soil, soil warming, Phytoliths, Plants, biogeochemistry

Received: 29 Apr 2019; Accepted: 09 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Eric Struyf, University of Antwerp, Belgium

Reviewed by:

Ivika Ostonen, University of Tartu, Estonia
Frederic Gerard, Montpellier SupAgro, France  

Copyright: © 2019 Gewirtzman, Tang, Melillo, Werner, Kurtz, Fulweiler and Carey. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Jonathan Gewirtzman, Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), The Ecosystems Center, Woods Hole, 02543, Massachusetts, United States,